First stop Tokyo! We stayed at a hostel with at least 50 or 60 other SAS students. It was capsule style, so we each had our own little wooden cubicle. That night we explored the area close to the hostel. The next morning we got up at 4:30am to go to the fish market where we met up with a few other friends and had sushi for breakfast. That afternoon we went to the Harajuku district that you might know from the Gwen Stafani song. We shopped, and people-watched, some of the locals dress up like dolls. The picture of me sitting on the panda is from Harajuku. Then we went to the Anime district which felt the most "Japanese" to me, and less like any other big city. There were lots of big Japanese advertisements, video game centers and electronics shops. That night we found a bar with Australian travelers and middle-aged Japanese women. Interesting mix, but everyone was very nice and we had a good time.
In Tokyo we discovered some of our favorite foods. We could not pass up a 7-eleven without someone wanting a snack or treat. The dumplings were my favorite. There was meat dumplings, pizza dumplings, and chocolate dumplings. The strange candies and chocolates from 7-eleven were really fun to try as well. Another one of our favorite places to eat where these vending machine restaurants (picture of me with rice bowl and soup). We would put our money in a machine and push a button for whatever dish we wanted, then it would spit out a ticket that we would hand to a waiter, and our food would come sixty seconds later. You could get rice and meat bowls, Japanese curry, and soups. We tried them all! Throughout Tokyo and Kyoto we kept running into SASers, somehow 550 students were able to take over all of Japan. China's a lot bigger, so we may not run into as many there.
Day three we traveled to Kyoto and found a hole-in-the-wall restaurant (picture of noodles and savory pancakes). The men next to us bought us two bottles of wine, showed us pictures of their daughters, and gave us these little stickers that we think have their daughter's names on them. They called them "name cards." We found a small club in Kyoto where a few Japanese girls we celebrating one of their 21st birthdays. Spending time with locals really made Kyoto special. The next morning we went to a pagoda (pictured) and a pathway of Toriis (picture of Jules taking a picture from the outside of the path). On our way back we toured a sake museum/brewery. Then we went to a bath house. We knew that we had to shower before we could get in the water, but when we tried to step into the pools, the women who were already bathing sent us back to keep showering. Then we tried to get in again, and they sent us back to the shower even more! They must have thought that we were very dirty. There was a whole ritual with pouring water on yourself before getting in the baths, and we made the big mistake of dipping our towels in the water. There were five different pools, one had an electric current. The women laughed at us when they saw our faces as we jumped in and jumped right back out again. We tried to be as respectful as possible, but we had no idea what we were doing.
That night we took a train to Osaka but we didn't have a hostel so we walked around looking for a place, and finally a hostel said we could sleep in their staff lounge. We were a little hesitant, but it was great. They made one huge matted area for all five of us, and we stayed up talking because we were too tiered to go out. In Osaka we visited the Osaka Castle. One of my favorite experience of Japan was meeting these three girls who were twelve years old and trying to find their way to a fountain. We had passed by a fountain a while back so we said we would show them the way. They spoke more English than most of the poeple we had met in Japan, but even so we could only communicate a few things. At one point Kiki used some scented hand sanitizer and the three girls thought it was absolutely amazing, so she gave the bottle to them. They were so thrilled!
I have class today and tomorrow, and then we arrive in China!